Editors Guild hits back: 'Katju's comments touch a new low'
The Guild took serious note of Katju's advocacy for 'draconian powers' especially by a Council led by someone who 'wants to invoke fear in the media'.
New Delhi: The Editors Guild today termed as "ill-considered" the comments made by the new Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju against the media and vowed to oppose any move by it to assume "draconian" powers and bring the electronic media under its ambit.
Alleging that Katju has been making negative statements ever since he assumed office, the Guild said his comments in an interview last week "touched a new low". "The Editors Guild of India deplores the ill-considered, sweeping and uninformed comments on the media and media professionals by the new chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju," the Editors Guild said in a statement here.
In a recent interview, Katju had said he held a "poor opinion" of media personnel in general, accusing them of often working in an "anti-people" manner and advocating more teeth to the council to regulate them. He had also said that he had written to the prime minister for inclusion of TV channels under the Press Council and renaming it as the Media Council.
"Press freedom is a bulwark for the Indian people against the onslaught of people in authority, and the Guild will firmly oppose the assumption of any draconian powers by a Press Council that was created with an altogether different purpose," the Guild said. Further, as the very name of the Council suggests, only the print media comes within the Council's ambit, it said.
"The issues and drivers of the electronic media are such that they call for separate regulation. Therefore the Guild firmly believes that the Press Council should have its brief limited to the print media, as it is at the present," the Guild said.
Taking serious note of Katju's advocacy for "draconian powers to impose fines on media, to withdraw advertisements and to suspend the licence to publish or broadcast," the Guild said it "strongly opposes such powers being given to the Council, especially a Council led by someone who, it would seem, wants to invoke 'fear' in the media".
The Editors Guild also took serious note of Katju's views that the media divides people on religious lines and TV Channels' obsession with cricket and other subjects. "He believes that journalists have not studied economics, politics, literature or philosophy, and he has a poor opinion of the media and media people (some of whom, as it happens, are members of Press Council that Katju chairs," it said. "The Guild wishes to draw attention to the fact that its attempt to engage in dialogue with Katju has been rendered futile by Katju, who however continues to express his tendentious and offensive views," the statement said.
"The Guild wishes to remind Katju that the Indian media is as diverse as it is vigorous, and that while it has drawbacks and shortcomings, on the whole it contributes to the strength of Indian system," the statement added.
Editors Guild of India today termed Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari's suggestion of licensing journalists as an "undemocratic" practice and said it is a tool of totalitarian states to control the media.